hello and welcome back to "newsline" i'm shery ahn. let's get started with the head lines. crews trying to find a missing malaysian passenger plane say they still can't figure out where it went. engineers in japan are racing to develop robots to do work at the fukushima daiichi nuclear plant, where it's too dangerous for humans to go. and farmers in northeastern japan have turned to some
innovative technology to help them get back on their land. the head of malaysia's civil aviation authority says the disappearance of a jetliner is an unprecedented aviation mystery. the malaysia airlines plane took off from kuala lumpur on saturday, with 239 people on board. it flew out toward beijing over the south china sea. then, it disappeared. >> we have not found anything that appears to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft. we will be intensifying our efforts to locate the missing aircraft. >> crews on dozens of aircraft and ships from malaysia and neighboring countries are scouring the area. teams from china, australia, and the u.s., have joined them. the headle malaysia's air force said radar analysis indicates
the plane may have reversed course shortly before it disappeared. investigators are focusing on two men who boarded the plane using stolen passports. china southern airlines shared the flight with malaysia airlines. officials with china southern say the men had consecutive ticket numbers and were booked on the same onward flight to europe. the families of the passengers are waiting for any news they can get. philip wood was one of three americans who boarded the plane. >> i've been reminded recently to not give up hope, and not that i had, but, you never know. you know. i'm not going to close that door until we need to close it completely. >> the passengers came from 15 countries and regions. now a majority of the people who boarded the flight were chinese. and their families are frantic. nhk world's kyoko fujita reports
from beijing. >> reporter: malaysia airlines set up a help desk at a beijing hotel for the families of missing passengers. they came in a steady stream throughout the day. the missing malaysian airlines plane is also making head lines here in china. >> translator: there is risk involved with any form of transport. including airplanes. there isn't really anything passengers can do to avoid danger. >> translator: of course i'm worried about flying. my family even asked me to give up the idea. but i booked a ticket before the incident occurred. >> reporter: delegates to the national people's congress are meeting in the capital. they're discussing key policies for the year ahead. foreign minister wang li spoke on behalf of the government.
>> we are deeply concerned about the news. we hope everyone will be safe.b. >> we are deeply concerned about the news. we hope everyone will be safe.o. >> we are deeply concerned about the news. we hope everyone will be safe. >> an increasing number of chinese are traveling abroad, particularly wealthy people. malaysia is a popular holiday destination. nearly 1.8 million chinese visited the country in 2013, up nearly 50% over the previous year. some of the passengers on the plane were calligraphers from china returning home after an event in kuala lumpur. a number of them can be seen in this photo. families are growing frustrated with the lack of information on the whereabouts of their loved ones. some of gone to malaysia in search of answers. chinese officials have asked the malaysian government to speed up the search.
beijing has dispatched several ships to the south china sea to assist. given the high degree of public attention, the government is doing all it can to demonstrate it's taking the situation seriously. kyoko fujita, nhk world, beijing. a suicide bomber has staged an attack at a checkpoint in central iraq. more than 30 people were killed. more than 120 wounded. the bomber drove off in a mini bus packed with explosives. dozens of cars were waiting to pass through. the attack took place in the city of hila which has a large shia population. and police suspect sunni militants may be responsible. the sunnis have grown increasingly frustrated with the shia-led government of prime minister nuri al maliki. insurgents from both sides have launched repeated attacks.
crews at japan's damaged nuclear plant must navigate high and potentially lethal levels of radiation every day. in some areas, at fukushima daiichi, they can only work for short periods of time. in others, they can't work at all. so engineers are racing to develop the technology that will offer full access, but no risk. nhk world's noriko akada has the story. >> reporter: right after the accident, tepco engineers sent a remote controlled robot inside one of the reactor buildings. the device detected tremendously high levels of radiation. and it managed to make it out. since then tepco has used several robots to survey dangerous areas of the crippled plant. the utilities' need for the technology have pushed developers to design robots that can go where humans cannot.
researchers and engineers are trying to make devices that can carry out more advanced demissioning tasks. some attended the convention in january. they are now focused on designing robots that can do decontamination work. this robot uses the laser technology to clean up the radioactive substances. the arms stick out of the device emits a beam. the laser can evaporate radioactive substances. then the robot uses the vacuum to collect the radioactive dust. this model is designed to cut through rubble, which is littered inside reactor buildings because of the explosions. >> translator: we're proud of this robot, which will be used in areas inside fukushima
daiichi, where no people can go. >> reporter: the most daunting challenge is removing extremely radioactive nuclear fuel from the damaged reactors. tepco officials say molten fuel burned through the damaged reactors, and piled up at the bottom of the containment vessels. the fuel is inaccessible right now. engineers are exploring ways to reach it. they are trying to develop a 30-meter-long robotic arm. it would have special sensors inside that would create a 3-d picture so engineers could monitor its movement. >> translator: radiation could effect all electronic parts of the robot. so, we have to overcome that hurdle.
>> reporter: this institute is developing a laser for the robotic arm. teams of engineers are working on one that would slice through the melted down nuclear fuel which is now extremely hard. they also need the laser to work underwater. the reactors must be filled with water to shield the emission of radiation from the fuel. the institute ran an experiment using a mock reactors. the engineers injected gas into water to clear a path for the laser, so the beam wouldn't weaken. then, they aimed the laser at the simulated fuel, and managed to cut some of it. but the fuel at the fukushima
plant is expected to be more difficult to deal with. some of it mixed with debris when it melted down, making it much harder than the simulated fuel. tepco engineers don't fully understand the condition it's in. >> translator: this is a huge challenge. we have to combine techniques in ways that we've never tested before. some combinations will work. but in other cases, we will have to make fundamental adjustments. >> reporter: there are still many hurdles. engineers haven't figured out how to collect and remove the fuel. and tepco workers would need to carry out the job in three reactors. for now, they know the technology they need is a long way away from being put in to practice. noriko okada, nhk world. now let's get the latest business stories from ron
madison. >> looks like people in japan are becoming more cautious about the nation's economy ahead of the consumption tax hike next month. the latest government survey shows that business sentiment among workers fell in february for the second straight month. researchers at the cabinet office asked more than 2,000 people nationwide how they feel about the economy compared to three months ago. results show that the february index for the current state of the economy fell 1.7 points from the previous month to 53.0. a reading of 50 does suggest that the economy is flat. now, many noted that the heavy snow caused fewer people to stay at recreational facilities and hotels. and employment numbers didn't rise as much as in previous months. concern about consumption after the tax hike caused the index for the business outlook to fall nine points from the previous month to 40.0. the decline was the second largest since march 2011 when wide areas of the country were struck by a massive earthquake.
and other numbers also show that japan's recovery is still pretty fragile. finance ministry officials say the nation's swelling trade deficit is offsetting higher income from overseas investments. that caused the country to post a record current account deficit in january. ministry officials say the current account deficit in january was about $15.4 billion. it was the fourth straight month that the balance was in the red. and it's the biggest current account shortfall since comparable data was first collected in 1985. they say the main reason was the trade deficit, it swelled to more than $22.7 billion. exports rose more than 16% in yen terms in january from a year ago. imports, though, surged by more than 30%. officials reported that the weaker yen pushed up the value of imported crude oil and liquefied natural gas which are priced in dollars. imports of smartphones and clothing also rose. consumers rushed to buy them before the sales tax increase in
april. the data also showed japan's income account had a surplus of nearly $13 billion. japanese companies reported more dividends from their overseas subsidiaries but that wasn't enough to offset the trade deficit. japanese government officials revised downward the latest numbers on the nation's gross domestic product. they say the nation's economy grew 0.2% in real terms in october to december period from the previous quarter. that translates to an annualized growth rate of 0.7%. the data compares to the preliminary figure of 1% for annualized growth released last month. declines in corporate capital investment and private consumption were the main factors in the downward revision. but officials expect higher growth for the current quarter through march. they say there will likely be more personal spending ahead of the consumption tax hike in april. and investors in tokyo felt pretty uneasy about the poor
data. the nikkei average ended lower today by more than 1%. 15,120. that did snap a four-day winning streak. a broader range of stocks were sold with market heavyweight shares leading the fall. trading value was also the smallest that we've seen so far this year. other major bourses in the asia pacific region ended lower. chinese shares took the hardest hit, as investors were worried about the country's economic slowdown. that's after china's exports unexpectedly tumbled nearly 20% in february, from a year earlier. the shanghai composite gave up nearly 2.9% finishing at 1,999. that puts it below the key 2,000 level for the first time in a month and a half. investor sense ipt was also weighed by a separate piece of data showing that china's inflation numbers were not as strong as some had expected. and in malaysia the main index there closed down a half a percent, 1,822. shares of malaysian airlines
plunged as much as 20% earlier, after the -- one of the company's jetliners went missing. well the past few years have not been years of plenty for farmers across northeastern japan. many are still struggling to recover from the disaster there three years ago. and some are trying out a new business model now, to get back on to their land. >> reporter: there is a sure sign that life is returning to normal in sendai, the largest city in the region. strawberries inside this department store are selling individually for about $5 or more. and they're grown locally. they come from the town of yamamoto, further south. it used to be a major growing area for strawberries. but more than 90% of the farms in the region were damaged in the tsunami. hiroki is the head of an agricultural production corporation that produces the
high-grade strawberries. he was born in yamamoto. he runs an i.t. consulting firm in tokyo pep launched the strawberry business two years ago. he wanted to help revive agriculture in the area by combining strawberry cultivation with information technology. >> translator: there are uncertainties in agriculture, like the weather. but i feel excuses like that are weakening the industry. >> reporter: one of the most difficult things about growing strawberries indoors is controlling the environment inside hothouses. the farm set up a system to maintain the temperature, and humidity, at optimal levels. the designers of the system tapped in to a veteran farmer's years of experience. he has been growing strawberries in yamamoto for three decades. he almost gave up on farming after the tsunami, but he was
inspired by iwasa's enthusiasm and they decided to join forces. hashimoto provides the necessary input to figure out the best environmental settings to maximize production. he gives detailed instructions on temperature settings for each variety of strawberry. based on the data, temperatures will set automatically using sensors. when it becomes too dry inside the hothouses the system releases a fine mist, hashimoto thinks the humidity should be at least 40% to prevent disease. this i.t.-controlled cultivation method allows stable production of high-quality strawberries and it's paying off. the fruit now sells for about double the predisaster level, about $20 a kilogram on average.
iwasa is now marketing his growing method abroad. his group is helping people in india grow top-grade strawberries in a pilot project in the western city of punei. the area is not known for strawberry production as daytime highs reach 30 degrees celsius, even in winter. so, iwasa teamed up with a major japanese electronics maker to develop a computer controlled greenhouse. the workers in india collect data every day. they then receive detailed instructions from japan over the internet. >> japanese technology, i.t. technology, is very, very supportive to this. >> reporter: the strawberries are used in making cakes at a nearby luxury hotel. >> translator: we can use our know-how to help many people start farming. they would then hire others who
would acquire the skills and start their own farming enterprises. a true virtuous cycle. >> reporter: farming techniques that have helped revive areas in japan's disaster stricken northeast are now promising to bring a better life to people in other parts of the world. all right, well engineers at leading japanese automakers are exploring a new use for eco23re7bdly vehicles. they're adapting the cars so people can use them in emergencies to produce power. engineers at nissan are tweaking the current and voltage generated by the company's electric cars. the changes will make it possible to provide a stable supply of electricity to buildings. researchers at honda are doing something similar. they want to turn vehicles that run on fuel cells into a power source for disaster shelters. the fuel cells create electricity through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. >> translator: the cars can be used as movable power sources in
disasters for homes and also emergency shelters. >> the vehicles could be used in the event of a blackout caused by a natural disaster. or an accident. okay. that's going to wrap it up for biz this hour. let's see how things are looking on the markets. every morning investors turn their attention to asia. the tokyo market leads the way. and markets around the world
follow. >> from the decisions that could change the course of an economy. >> to the latest business trends. >> up-to-the minute market reports. >> and analysis by specialists from around the world. >> get all the latest business news and insight every day here on "newsline." voters in the ukrainian republic of crimea will head to the polls within the week to choose whether they want to join russia. thousands of people have taken to the streets to make their opinions heard. ethnic russians make up the majority of the population in the autonomous region. they're applying pressure on those who support ukraine's interim government, which favors closer ties with europe. about 3,000 people gathered at a local government office in the city of simferopol. they think things will be better if crimea were part of russia. >> translator: through unification with russia i hope the economy will get better and our salaries and pensions will
increase. >> russia's black sea fleet is based in the port city of sevastopol. supporters of the interim ukrainian government held a rally there to protest the referendum. witnesses say vigilantes moved in and disrupted the gathering. german chancellor angela merkel and british prime minister david cameron both got and the phone with russian president vladimir putin. they urged him to hold talks with ukrainian leaders. german officials say merkel says the referendum violates ukraine's constitution. a spokesperson for putin says he told merkel that the vote is based on international law, and he said the referendum will reflect the legitimate interests of people in crimea. prime minister cameron's office called for the establishment of an international contact group. putin said he and foreign minister sergey lavrov would discuss the matter. and the tropics looking quite active today in the southern pacific.
our meteorologist robert speta has more on that and the weather around the world. robert? >> yes, we are seeing out here today what it looks like to be the peak of tropical season in the southern hemisphere. and we have three named tropical systems at this time. you can see one here in the gulf of carpentaria, and another over by sven watt u in fiji. let's talk about these two near the queensland coast where they've already been bringing some rainfall. gillian and hati. both relatively weak. they would just be barely holding on to tropical storm status. one slightly intensifying. could become a category 2. the good news it is moving off toward the northeast and will be gradually weakening out as it moves away from land. also gillian now an ex-tropical cyclone expected to reintensify. they're going to be bringing some rainfall. wouldn't expect anything too significant or two serious to be coming out of them. the stronger one out toward the
east, lucy, now that one is moving southeast but as it does intensify to a category 3 about the equivalent of a typhoon in the northern hemisphere, it's going to be out to sea. overall, i know it looks really grim when you look at it at first but the big threat is going to be the heavy rain and that risk of flooding. let's talk about the snowfall in the northern hemisphere where we have still sea-effect snow continuing to impact much of the sea of japan coastline of japan out here. much of western hokkaido down through honshu, actually in hiroshima you saw about 37 centimeters of snow in the higher elevations in the past 24 hours. hokkaido some wind reports about 83 kilometers per hour. i know if you're on the pacific coast, including tokyo, it doesn't feel that way. a little bit of a breezy condition, but nothing too significant, as it is stopping all this precipitation from getting over towards the pacific coastline. now all this is going to be tapering off later on this week. and that's the good news because these strong northwesterly winds which bring in very chilly
temperatures, that's going to taper off. there's actually going to be a warming trend across much of japan towards wednesday and out towards thursday. tokyo up to 17 by your midweek, even osaka, 16, kagoshima flirting with the 20s by wednesday and thursday as well. the reason this is happening, though, is another weather system. southeastern china some precipitation out here. about 25 to 50 millimeters could be expected even around hong kong and tie pay, you're already seeing some light rain conditions out here now going through wednesday, that's going to move east and by thursday could even see a rumble of thunder or two even across the canto plain. a lot happening. it's that time of year when the weather does change. shanghai, 15 on your tuesday. tie pay up to 22. and down towards the tropics into the 30s there for you. now, as we take a look over towards the americas what we have going on off towards the north is another system moving through the northern rockies. this is going to play a big factor in to possibly a large system later on this week, off towards the east. rate now, it's over here towards idaho, montana, wyoming, you've
been seeing some reports of flooding out here because you have some warming temperatures, some rainfall, rapid snow melt. higher elevations, still some snowfall but that's going to bring that wintry mix across the northern plains into the western great lakes going through your tuesday. and even over towards wednesday. but later on, like i said, there's a risk over here because we have another low coming in from the south these can merge and definitely bring some foul weather. ahead of that low there's some warming temperatures behind it. some cooling temperatures. so chicago, yes, 14 here on your monday. oklahoma city up toward the mid 20s. it's going to be cooling off by your tuesday in to wednesday. here's the extended forecast.
>> malaysia identifies one of the stolen passport users on for the malaysian airlines plane that went missing this weekend. he is reportedly not from malaysia. is just breakthrough what happened to the 239 people on board. new diplomatic maneuvering on ukraine. they are not against western proposals on the standoff. i'm you has the right to succeed.